Worrying trend in children who are too young to be vaccinated underscores the need for older children and adults to get their shots fired to help protect those around them.
Hospitalizations of children in the United States under five with COVID-19 have risen to their highest level in recent weeks since the pandemic began, according to government data on the only age group not yet eligible for the vaccine.
The alarming trend in children being too young to be vaccinated underscores the need for older children and adults to get their shots fired to help protect those around them, said Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC ) Said Friday.
Since mid-December, with the highly contagious Omicron variant spreading furiously across the country, the hospitalization rate in these youngest children has risen to more than four in 100,000 children, from 2.5 per 100,000.
The rate among children aged five to 17 is about one in 100,000, according to CDC data, drawn from more than 250 hospitals in 14 states.
In general, “pediatric hospitalizations are at their highest rate compared to any previous point in the pandemic,” Walensky said.
She noted that about 50 percent of children between the ages of 12 to 18, and only 16 percent of those 5 to 11, are fully vaccinated.
The overall hospitalization rate among children and adolescents is still lower than that of any other age group. And they are responsible for less than five percent of the average new daily hospital admissions, according to the CDC.
As of Tuesday, the average number of under-18 patients admitted to the hospital per day with COVID-19,766 was double the figure reported just two weeks ago.
The trend among very young children is driven by high hospitalization rates in five states: Georgia, Connecticut, Tennessee, California and Oregon, with the sharpest increases in Georgia, the CDC said.
Less serious, more cases
At a briefing, Walensky said the numbers include children admitted to the hospital due to COVID-19 and those admitted for other reasons but found to be infected.
The CDC also said the upswing could be attributed in part to how COVID-19 hospitalizations are defined in this age group: a positive virus test within 14 days of hospitalization for any reason.
The severity of illness among children during the Omicron wave appears to be lower than it was with the Delta variant, said Dr. John McGuire, critical care chief at Seattle Children’s Hospital.
“Most of the COVID + children in the hospital are not actually here for COVID-19 disease,” McGuire said in an email. “They are here for other problems, but happened to test positive.”
The country’s leading infectious disease expert, Dr Anthony Fauci, said earlier this week that Omicron appears to be causing less serious diseases in general, but the large number of infections due to its extreme contagion will mean that many more children will be infected. , and a certain portion of them will end up in the hospital.
Fauci also said that many children admitted to the hospital with COVID-19 have other health conditions that make them more susceptible to complications of the virus. These include obesity, diabetes and lung disease.
Many had hoped the new year could bring a vaccine to young children, but Pfizer announced last month that two doses did not offer as much protection as was hoped for young people aged two to four.
Pfizer’s study has been updated to give everyone under five a third dose, and data are expected in early spring.